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FACT FINDING

Don't even think about walking into a job interview without having acquired information about the prospective employer. Here's your opportunity to show that you are a serious, organized and engaged job candidate. If knowledge is power under normal circumstances, in the job interview knowledge is power to the power of 10. And the best part : it's free!

factsNearly every community library has a number of reference books about local, regional and national manufacturers, marketing organizations and service providers. Ask a reference librarian to help you with your search. The Internet is another rich trove of information about corporations, non-profits, public institutions and just about any other organization that hires people. Every publicly traded company publishes an annual report; call up a local stockbroker's office and ask for a copy. If you know someone who already works for your prospective employer, ask questions. The long and the short of it is, the information is out there.

Your goal is NOT to end up talking like a company insider, but only to demonstrate that you've done your homework. You should find out about the history of the organization, what its mission is (hint: annual reports usually publish corporate mission statements), who the key players are, and the market, public or charitable sector it serves. If the prospective employer is a manufacturer, become familiar with the product line. It it's a nonprofit organization, find out about the needs it addresses. If it's a government organization, learn about its scope of authority and how it fits into the larger scheme of local, state or federal government.

Depending on the position you seek, you might need to delve further. If, for example, you are interviewing for an accounting position in a publicly traded company, you probably ought to familiarize yourself with the financial information in its annual report. By the same token, if you're a graphic artist seeking a job with an Internet service provider, you should familiarize yourself with graphic styles the company is using on the Web, as well as hardware and software currently employed by the firm.

Along the way, you may encounter a daunting amount of alphabet soup, particularly on organization Web sites. We're becoming more and more apt to communicate in shorthand, and that's reflected in the way companies talk about themselves. For instance, many firms describe themselves as OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), ISPs (Internet service providers), CROs (contract research organizations) or any of dozens of other initial clusters. Should you encounter such a character in your search, you can find helpful glossaries on the Internet. One that answers many such questions can be found at http://www.astro.umd.edu/~marshall/abbrev.html.

Once you've gotten your facts in order, it's time to take a long look in the mirror.

Continue to: SELF ASSESSMENT

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